Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ganache-Filled Pink Peppermint Macarons

The Christmas season is officially upon us, and I’ve turned my attention from pies to cookies (in between decking the halls, wrapping presents, etc.). I’ve always loved the tradition of baking cookies for the holidays, and still make some of the same favorites I’ve been baking for over 30 years. There’s a swirled butter cookie, for

example, that I pipe out in assorted shapes, dip in chocolate and sprinkle with nuts. Then there are the confectioners’ sugar-dusted Russian tea cakes I make every year – classics that are found on many a holiday cookie tray. And chocolate krinkles – you know, the white ones that crack during baking, exposing the moist chocolate 

centers. But it’s always nice to add a new cookie to my holiday repertoire. This year it’s a Ganache-filled Pink Peppermint Macaron, which is both festive and delicious. These cookies also freeze extremely well, so you can make them up to a month ahead. I’ve made macarons using different methods – French, Swiss and Italian 

meringue – and for me the one that works best is the French type. But instead of making it in the classic way (i.e., whipping it to soft peaks and adding the sugar gradually until the meringue is glossy and stiff), I make it the way many pastry chefs do today: I hand whisk the egg whites with the granulated sugar just to combine, and then whip the meringue at medium speed, gradually increasing the speed to high, until the meringue is stiff and glossy. This makes a very strong and stable meringue, and produces a beautiful macaron. This cookie just may become one of your holiday favorites, too. Happy holidays!! (Click 'Read More' below for the recipe.)

Ganache-Filled Pink Peppermint Macarons

Makes 36 macarons

Macaron Shells:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz/140 g) almond flour
2 cups (256 g/9 oz) confectioners’ sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon (0.5 g/0.017 oz) pure peppermint extract
Pink paste food coloring
2 candy canes, placed in a Ziplock bag and crushed with a rolling pin

Ganache Filling:
12 ounces (340 g) semisweet chocolate, 62%, chopped
1 cup (232 g) heavy cream
2 ½ tablespoons (50 g) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½-inch cubes

Make the Macaron Shells:
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. In a food processor, process the almond flour with the confectioners’ sugar a few seconds until well blended. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and granulated sugar together by hand until blended. Place the bowl on the mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are very foamy, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the whites until they are opaque and form soft peaks, another 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks, another 2 minutes. Add the peppermint and beat until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in just enough pink paste food coloring to turn the whites pale pink.
3. Sprinkle half of the sifted almond mixture on top of the meringue and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining almond mixture and mix it in a light circular motion. Working with a large scoop of batter at a time, press and spread out the batter against the side of the bowl with the spatula, then scoop the batter from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Repeat this motion 30 to 50 times. When the batter forms ribbons that disappear in 8 to 10 seconds when it drips from the spatula, it is ready to be piped. If the ribbons take longer than that to disappear, repeat the pressing and spreading motion with the batter until it is ready. (Be patient—this is the most important step in making macarons.)
4. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch plain tip (Ateco #4) and prop it up in a tall glass. Scrape the batter into the bag. Pipe out 1-inch rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter once or twice to remove air bubbles. Sprinkle half the macarons with the crushed candy canes. (Place the pastry bag containing any remaining batter back in the glass and cover with plastic wrap to pipe more macarons later.) Bake the macarons, one sheet at a time, for 12 to 14 minutes, until they have puffed up and the tops are set (they should not have colored). Cool the macarons completely on the baking sheet set on a wire rack.
Repeat with the remaining macarons and batter, baking them one sheet at a time.

Make the ganache:
5. Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
6. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and allow to stand for 30 seconds to melt the chocolate. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Add the butter pieces and process until blended and smooth. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and blend with a spatula until completely smooth. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature, or until firm enough to pipe.
7. Transfer the ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip (Ateco #4 or #5) and pipe a generous dollop onto the underside of each plain (without the sprinkling of candy canes) macaron. Top each with a candy-cane sprinkled macaron. Transfer the macaron sandwiches to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (or up to 5 days) before serving. The macarons can also be frozen for up to a month.

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